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Beach: Piano Music Vol 1 - The Early Works / Kirsten Johnson


Release Date: 02/19/2008 
Label:  Guild   Catalog #: 7317   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Amy Marcy Beach
Performer:  Kirsten Johnson
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BEACH 4 Sketches. Mamma’s Waltz. Menuetto. Romanza. Petite valse. Air and Variations. Valse-caprice. Ballad. Bal masque. Children’s Carnival. 3 Morceaux caractéristiques Kirsten Johnson (pn) GUILD 7317 (65:32)


Kirsten Johnson empathizes completely with the refined femininity of Amy Beach’s exquisite, fragrantly decorated piano pieces, and the album is enhanced by her notes, lucidly and insightfully written from the pianist’s point of view. Johnson reveals, for instance, that Amy’s husband would not Read more allow her to accept payment for her public performances, feeling that it was his place to provide the family income. How times have changed! This, the first installment of Gußild’s projected Beach Piano Music series, concentrates on the works of her early years, from her first simple creation, Mamma’s Waltz , composed in her head at the age of four and written down for her by her mother, to her compositions of 1894, a particularly fertile year.


The collection includes four other junior pieces written between 1872 and 1878 (Amy was born in 1867) demonstrating her evolving confidence and talent: Menuetto (a precursor of her Menuet italien ), Romanza, and Air and Variations , all written when she was just 10 in 1877; the relatively complex Air and Variations being the most substantial and accomplished. Her charming Petite valse was written in the following year. The capricious and rhapsodic Valse caprice was premiered by Beach herself in 1889, and championed by Joseph Hofmann who favored it as an encore. In 1894 came the remarkable, nine-and-a-half minute Ballade , based on her own song, O my luve is like a red, red rose to Robert Burns’s verses. This lovely piece builds into a fiery, tempestuous climax, most passionately conveyed by Johnson at the poet’s declaration of everlasting love: “I will love thee still, my dear/While the sands of life shall run.” Bal masque, also composed in 1894, demonstrates Beach’s love and affinity for the Viennese waltz tradition.


The remaining items in this concert are grouped into three sets. Sketches was written after Amy’s marriage to Henry Harris Aubrey Beach in 1885, and published in 1892 as her op. 15. Influences of Schumann, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Liszt are all discernible. This set comprises four pieces, each of which is preceded by a line of poetry, written in French. “In Autumn” has the superscription, “Yellowed leaves are scattered on the grass”; it is a little Schubert-like and it nicely evokes leaves lightly falling and then swirling as breezes intensify. The ballet-like “Phantoms,” with “All the fragile flowers die as soon as they are born,” has a mazurka-like feel about it. The intensely romantic “Dreaming,” with its quotation “You speak to me from the depths of a dream,” has an obsessive triplet figuration and speaks of tender yearning. Finally, “Fire-flies,” headed by “To be born with the spring, to die with the roses,” nicely evokes the quickly flitting creatures and was played by Busoni, Hofmann, and Moritz Rosenthal. Six pedagogical pieces comprise Children’s Carnival from the fruitful year, 1894. They are all charming and accessible miniatures based on the Italian commedia dell’arte characters. “Promenade” introduces the characters. “Columbine” is a coy, demure little sketch; “Pantalon” is spry and a little pompous; “Pierrot and Pierrette” is a gentle waltz for the lovers, Pierrot constant, Columbine fickle; “Secrets” is a lovely, haunting andantino; and “Harlequin,” the acrobat of the troupe, is given an energetic dance full of leaps. The album concludes with the three more sophisticated pieces that make up Trois morceaux caractéristiques (once again, 1894). “Barcorolle” is an exquisite boat song, lilting and romantic, reaching a passionate climax. “Menuet italien” expands Beach’s earlier Menuetto, adding refinement and decorative complexity. Finally, “Dance des fleurs” is a graceful evocation of flowers nodding and twirling in the breeze.


With this new Guild release, Kirsten Johnson’s survey of Amy Beach’s piano music begins auspiciously. Joanne Polk’s three Arabesque albums of Beach’s piano music are also a firm recommendation.


FANFARE: Ian Lace
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Works on This Recording

1. Sketches (4) for Piano, Op. 15 by Amy Marcy Beach
Performer:  Kirsten Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; USA 
2. Morceaux caractéristiques (3), Op. 28 by Amy Marcy Beach
Performer:  Kirsten Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1894; USA 
3. Mamma's Waltz by Amy Marcy Beach
Performer:  Kirsten Johnson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 5 Secs. 
4. Menuetto by Amy Marcy Beach
Performer:  Kirsten Johnson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 1 Minutes 31 Secs. 
5. Romanza by Amy Marcy Beach
Performer:  Kirsten Johnson (Piano)
Length: 1 Minutes 37 Secs. 
6. Petite Valse by Amy Marcy Beach
Performer:  Kirsten Johnson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 1 Minutes 42 Secs. 
7. Air and Variations by Amy Marcy Beach
Performer:  Kirsten Johnson (Piano)
Length: 3 Minutes 51 Secs. 
8. Valse-caprice for Piano, Op. 4 by Amy Marcy Beach
Performer:  Kirsten Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1889; USA 
Length: 5 Minutes 13 Secs. 
9. Ballade for Piano in D flat major, Op. 6 by Amy Marcy Beach
Performer:  Kirsten Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1894; USA 
Length: 9 Minutes 26 Secs. 
10. Bal Masque, Op. 22 by Amy Marcy Beach
Performer:  Kirsten Johnson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 3 Minutes 41 Secs. 
11. Children's Carnival, Op. 25 by Amy Marcy Beach
Performer:  Kirsten Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; USA 

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